Valencia will play Barcelona in the semi-final of the cup after a convincing 0-3 win against city neighbours Levante on Thursday evening. Unai Emery's side were already 4-1 ahead from the first leg, and the coach gave a run out to some of his lesser used players. That gave the locals some hope at first, but they were unable to carve out any real scoring chances, and midway through the first half Piatti laid the ball back for Aduríz to put the visitors further in front. And when Piatti ran on to Bernat's through ball to score a second goal just five minutes later, the tie was over as a contest. Levante did show some spirit in the second half, but with twenty minutes to go new signing Oscar Serrano was sent off after picking up a second booking for a foul on Piatti. And with the game coming to an end Piatti rounded off his best performance in a Valencia shirt with the third goal after Munúa could only push out a header from Aduríz. Bragging rights for the Ches, and if they can make it past Barcelona then they have a real chance of some silverware. (26.01.12)
Barcelona are through to the last four of the Copa del Rey after a 4-3 aggregate victory over Real Madrid, although it was touch and go in the end as Mourinho's side put in their best performance against their eternal rivals for a long time. Pinto had to save two or three times from Higuaín and Ronaldo in the opening minutes, Özil rattled a shot against the crossbar and Busquets and Abidal were lucky to get off penalty appeals when they blocked shots with their arms later in the first half. However Barça struck twice in the last three minutes before the break, Messi holding off five defenders before slipping the ball through for Pedro to beat Casillas, and Alves crashing a shot across the keeper after a cross from the left was blocked. A couple of minutes after the restart Ramos had a goal ruled out for a previous foul, but a few minutes later Özil found Ronaldo for him to round Pinto and score, and four minutes later Benzema made it 2-2 on the night after pulling the ball past Puyol before beating the keeper from the edge of the area. Another away goal would have taken Madrid through, and there were some frantic moments until the visitors finally gave up after Ramos was sent off for a second bookable offence near the end.
Earlier in the evening Athletic Bilbao booked their place in the semi-finals after a 0-1 win at Mallorca. The Basque side were already two up from the first leg, and Muniain and Amorebieta came close to extending the lead early on. Hemed fired a shot over at the other end, but Ander forced a good save out of Calatayud and Llorente headed wide before the break. The locals improved after the restart, with Pereira testing Iraizoz early on and Alfaro and Pereira both having penalty claims turned down. But Llorente was a constant threat, and with a quarter of an hour to go Athletic took the lead when a soft Ramis back pass bobbled over the foot of a distracted Calatayud and in to his own net. That took the wind out of their sails, and with a couple of minutes to go a frustrated Chico earned himself a red card with a heavy tackle on Susaeta. Athletic go on to meet giant-killers Mirandés over two legs in the next two weeks, and with the other semi-final most likely to be made up of teams qualifying for the Champions League, whichever of the two makes it to the final will be sure of a place in the Europa League, win or lose on the big day. (25.01.12)
Mirandés are in to the semi-finals of the cup! The regional second division B side beat Espanyol 2-1 on Tuesday night to knock out the Catalans on the away goal rule! The whole population of the Burgos provincial town of Miranda del Ebro could fit in to Espanyol's Cornellà stadium, but their side are topping their group this season with an unbeaten record at home, and they more than held their own in a lively first half. Just two minutes after the restart though Rui Fonte got on the end of Raúl Baena's cross to put the first division team ahead, but a few minutes later local hero Pablo Infante equalised with a long shot which deflected off Baena and in off the far post. It was the day-time bank manager's seventh goal of the tournament, making him the competition's highest scorer, and for the next few minutes he inspired his players to bear down on the visitors' goal. As the final whistle approached it looked like they would run out of time, but in the third and final minute of injury time Infante swung in a wide free kick, and César Caneda stooped to head past Casilla. A major blow for Espanyol, who themselves had scraped through their last two ties with late goals, but a bit of cup magic had taken place, and who knows if Mirandés can go just one step further and reach the final... and then on to Europe? (24.01.12)